A Low-Calorie Snack Survival
Guide By Stephanie Saunders
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Dieting can be a struggle for even the most
disciplined. Going against your cravings, turning down tasty desserts, and
making wise restaurant choices is difficult for even those of us who give
advice about it. And although recent studies show that caloric restriction has
wide-ranging health benefits and may offer protection against age-related
disorders such as Alzheimer's disease*, feeling hunger pains can make it a
Herculean task. Anyone that was sent to bed as a child without dinner can
attest to how uncomfortable falling asleep can be when your stomach is empty.
Thanks a lot, Mom.
We're all well aware that in order to lose
weight, you need to burn more calories in a day than you consume. And for most
people, consuming small meals several times a day is much more effective than
consuming one or two giant ones, but what happens if you have followed your
eating plan to the letter, and that grumbling in your tummy is still there?
Fear not! There are a plethora of low-calorie foods out there that can fill up
your stomach without affecting your calorie count for the day too
Most of us don't crave vegetables in our
time of dieting need, but because of their low calorie count and high fiber
count, they can push away hunger very quickly. If you're craving salt, a touch
of fat-free dressing can spruce up even the most boring produce. For the
purpose of low-calorie snacking, aim for the non-starch variety (avoid
potatoes, corn, peas, carrots). And, remember, the more water in the vegetable,
the better. Some great choices include:
This super crunchy friend has 6 calories, 1.5 grams
of carbohydrates, 0.7 grams of fiber, no fat, and 0.3 grams of protein per
Previous to pickling, cucumbers have 14 calories, 2.8
grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, no fat, and 0.4 grams of protein per
1-cup sliced serving.
- Bell peppers.
Colorful and slightly sweet, bell peppers have 20
calories, 4.8 grams of carbohydrates, 1.5 grams of fiber, no fat, and 0.7 grams
of protein per 1/2-cup serving.
Fruit is a bit tricky, as the calorie counts
vary per item, and there is a lot of sugar in fruit. Remember the water rule,
and you will be in fairly good shape. Also, really watch your portion size. A
cup of watermelon is a great choice, while an entire watermelon will not serve
you well. If you're looking at the frozen varieties, make sure that there's no
sugar added to your choices. And avoid the gallon-size smoothies sold in every
mini-mall in this great country. Calorically, they should replace a meal, and
the amount of sugar they contain can send your insulin through the roof. Some
fantastic choices, in 1/2-cup servings, include:
Cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon are all between
25 and 30 calories, 5 to 7 grams of carbohydrates, 0.4 to 0.7 grams of fiber,
no fat, 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per 1/2-cup serving.
When in season, blueberries, raspberries, and
strawberries can satisfy a sweet tooth and your hunger. They each have between
20 to 40 calories, 5 to 10 grams of carbs, 2 to 3 grams of fiber, no fat, and
0.5 grams of protein.
Always in season, apples each contain about 82
calories, 21 grams of carbs, 3.8 grams of fiber, no fat, and 0.2 grams of
Protein is known to rebuild muscle; however,
for the dieter, the best part about protein is that it is filling and has some
substance to it. In this instance, dealing with low-calorie snacking, your
protein choices will have to be small in size and low in fat. In other words,
do not eat 2 pounds of bacon and consider it a snack. It's also wise
to combine these small protein portions with a choice from the vegetable
category. It will add flavor and fiber, which will add to your satiation. Some
low-cal favorites include:
- Egg whites.
Sometimes, they take a bit to get used to, but
scrambled egg whites pack a high-protein punch. Egg whites contain 29 calories,
0.6 grams of carbohydrates, no fiber and fat, and 6 grams of protein per
1/4-cup serving, before cooking.
- Light cheese.
There are tons of light cheese options out there, but
to make it simple, we are leaning toward the preportioned variety. Light string
cheese and Laughing Cow® wedges have 35 to 50 calories, 1 gram of carbs, no
fiber, 2 grams of fat, and 3 to 6 grams of protein.
Starchy and sweet
With the advent of the 100-calorie pack, one
would assume that starchy carbohydrate snacking would be completely figured
out. The problem is that most people don't stop at one pack, and three packs
later, you could have had a sandwich or a sundae. In this particular situation,
we suggest snacks that don't add more than 50 or 60 calories to your daily
intake, so unless you can only eat half of that SnackWells® pack, perhaps
look at these more filling options:
- Whole-grain brown
rice cakes. Rice expands in your stomach, and makes
you feel fuller for a longer period of time. One whole-grain brown rice cake
contains 30 calories, 14 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram of fiber, no fat, and 1
gram of protein.
popcorn. Air-popped popcorn is very filling, and
unlike its movie-theater cousin, it's not a caloric nightmare. Air-popped
popcorn contains 31 calories, 6.2 grams of carbohydrates, 1.2 grams of fiber,
0.4 grams of fat, and 1 gram of protein per 1-cup serving.
Fudgesicle®. I think this is one of humankind's
greatest creations. Each sugar-free Fudgesicle contains 35 calories, 16 grams
of carbs, 4 grams of fiber, 1.5 grams of fat, and 4 grams of
OK, so it's not actually food, but beverages
and broths can have a very filling effect on a very empty belly. Warm liquids,
in particular, expand in your stomach and make you feel fuller for a longer
period of time. Some choices include:
hot chocolate. On a chilly night, hot chocolate can
be filling and comforting. No-sugar-added hot chocolate contains 50 calories,
10 grams of carbs, no fiber or fat, and 2 grams of protein.
chicken broth. This diet wonder can be spiced up a
bit, or even added to, with choices from the vegetable category. Chicken broth
contains 15 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrates, no fiber or fat, and 2 grams of
Shakeology. The most filling and
nutritionally dense product on the market. For snacking purposes, try a
1/2-scoop serving size (24 grams). That's 70 calories, 8.5 grams of carbs, 1.5
grams of fiber, 0.5 grams of fat, and 8.5 grams of protein.
Remember, these suggestions are not
replacements for high-quality meals, but just a way to chase hunger away when
those meals have already been consumed. Many people on calorie-restricted diets
stop feeling excess hunger after several days, so be patient with yourself.
Eventually, the amazing machine that is your body will become acclimated to
what you are doing, and will thrive on the fuel you are giving it. In the
interim, utilize these low-calorie snacks and avoid the growling in your tummy.
It may not be as filling as some slices of Domino's Pizza®, but you will
feel much better about yourself in the morning.
*Source: Florida State
University, Program in Neuroscience, Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise
Sciences, 237 Biomedical Research Facility, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4340, USA.